Keli Lane learned too late that love hurts

KELI Lane is the kind of mother who doesn't just arrange a birthday party, she makes them the most fun ever.

She doesn't hire clowns or outsource the entertainment, she meticulously plans the games, makes the props and runs the action herself.

Barefoot in the backyard, she has 30 kids joyously transfixed, as other parents look on in amazement at her drive and enthusiasm.

That's because her child is Lane's whole world.

Her raison d'etre.

It is an inescapable irony that today, as the one-time "golden girl" wakes up in a prison cell she is to inhabit for at least the next 13 years, her beloved child has become a major victim of a mother's unfathomable life.

Lane has grown in the joy of the love of her child - a love she once believed she couldn't have.

Her child, whose name, gender and age are suppressed, is constantly at the forefront of her mind. Tears spilled down Lane's face as Justice Anthony Whealy noted "the strong relationship and firm bond between mother and [child] clearly runs very deep.

"This only serves to heighten the tragic irony of the nature of the principle crime of which the offender has been convicted," he said.

The court had heard the child's "sparkle" has dulled since its mother was lost to the justice system.

"[The child] asks me every day when Keli is coming home," Keli's mother Sandra told an earlier court hearing.

The case, Justice Whealy said, was in "every sense" tragic: "It is a tragedy at three levels. First the tragic fact that Keli Lane could not tell her mother all those years ago of the secret births of her three children ... the tragic circumstances underlying the present trial could have been avoided if Keli could have brought herself to reveal her secrets to her mother.

"Secondly, it is a tragedy between mother and [child], in the sense that the offender disposed of her second child Tegan, and in doing so tore asunder the natural relationship between mother and daughter.

"The fact has, and will, continue to haunt the offender through her life.

"The third tragedy is the rupture that must occur between Keli and her [child] because of the law's requirement she be sentenced to imprisonment for the murder of the second child."

Years of media scrutiny - described by Justice Whealy as her life being "laid bare" - has given Lane a steely facade. That is, until her child's name is uttered.

Lane was largely emotionless through Justice Whealy's sentencing remarks yesterday. The 18-year main sentence barely seemed to register, let alone the minimum 13 years and five months non-parole period.

She glared angrily at the prosecutor who pursued her, and glanced only occasionally, with a hint of distress, toward family and friends.

But her face crumbled as her child's name was uttered, her ice-cold resolve shattered by the terrible reminder of what she has lost.

The tragedy, as the judge put it, began 20 years ago when Lane first fell pregnant to her then-boyfriend at 17.

The teenagers agreed an abortion was the only option, a decision that left Lane distressed - but one she went on to make again a year later after a second pregnancy.

In-depth special: The Keli Lane files

Gallery: The Keli Lane timeline

 At the age of 19 she carried a baby to term in total secrecy. That child - a product of a relationship with an older man - was born in 1995 and, just as quietly, was legally adopted.

A fourth pregnancy the following year - paternity unknown - was the one that shattered her dream for a normal, loving family life.

By this stage Lane was engaged in "destructive, repetitive behaviour".

Having given birth to daughter Tegan - once again, in secret - at Auburn Hospital, Lane's life took a devastating twist.

Justice Anthony Whealy yesterday found that "some time after she left the hospital, she formed the intention to take the child's life - and did so very soon [afterward]".

The former water polo champion's decision, Justice Whealy found, was made with "some desperation".

"Putting it bluntly, she must have found herself in a desperate situation and could see no way out," he said.

PSYCHIATRIST Dr Michael Diamond told a sentencing hearing Lane could "shut down" and "act pragmatically on the spur of the moment when a problem could not otherwise be solved".

Justice Whealy said this fitted "the tragic situation" that arose in her mind after she left Auburn Hospital with Tegan in her arms.

"In her mind, Keli had nowhere to turn ... there was no way out," he said.

Within four hours of leaving Auburn Hospital, Lane was at a wedding with then boyfriend Duncan Gillies. There was no baby. Nobody had a clue.

Her own mother, nurse Sandra, and policeman father Robert, knew nothing.

By now, aged 21, Lane had been pregnant four times, giving birth twice.

A third child was born three years later.

That child was adopted legally - again in secrecy.

But the anomaly of the missing child was detected by a DOCS worker as the third child's adoption was processed. Lane's "web of lies" looked a little shaky.

Around the same time she met a man she would marry and who is the father of her fourth child - the "lovely child" she raised from birth.

It seems when she fell pregnant with this child in 2001 Lane believed she could finally have the child she couldn't before. But a police inquiry began, and did not let up.

She told them she did not know where Tegan was. She denied murder.

She said she had given the infant to the man she believed was Tegan's natural father.

But no trace of the man she said was named Andrew Norris or Morris has been found, nor the child Tegan who hospital staff said she had cuddled and nursed like a "normal" mother.

Lane remains angry and defiant. Her solicitor Ben Archbold has been instructed to lodge an appeal on Monday.